The Latest on Southeast Asia: A New Offensive in Myanmar & the UN Special Rapporteur Report

The United Nations on June 27 released a report revealing that the Myanmar junta is still capable of acquiring new military equipment from abroad despite broad sanctions and restrictions. Between March 2023 and 2024, the junta acquired $253 million worth of weapons, dual-use technologies, and manufacturing equipment with the aid of international banks. After Singapore cracked down on such transactions last year, exports from Singapore were slashed from $110 million to $10 million. Singaporean banks, once key facilitators for Myanmar’s military procurements, have largely been supplanted by Thai banks. 

The Myanmar Central Bank on June 30 denied the report’s findings, claiming that they are counterproductive to the interests of Myanmar civilians and harmful to the country’s international standing. The country’s ever-dwindling international support and rapidly deteriorating economic situation present a looming threat to the already unsteady military junta, which continues to lose ground to resistance forces throughout the country. Fighting continues throughout Myanmar as ethnic armed groups consolidate their gains and push back on junta positions. 

On June 24, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and its allies captured 24 junta military bases in Shan State and the upper Mandalay region as the first step in a new campaign the group is framing as a continuation of last October’s wildly successful Operation 1027. The new offensive, initially launched near the border of Mandalay Region in northern Shan state, was in response to what the TNLA perceives as repeated violations of a China-brokered ceasefire deal made earlier this year, giving way to renewed hostilities with junta forces.

Fighting in Chin State has also intensified as the Chin Brotherhood group attempts to push out junta forces from the region, prompting concern in neighboring India. On June 26, Indian foreign affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met with his junta counterpart Than Shwe in Delhi to express India’s deep concern over the instability in Myanmar. Jaishankar sought a commitment from the junta to protect India’s ongoing projects in Myanmar and urged the regime to move toward a democratic transition. This was India’s first meeting with a senior member of the junta since the 2021 coup. 

Amid the junta’s worsening position, it is in its best interest to maintain the few foreign relationships that it has. On June 28, Myanmar sent former president Thein Sein to an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence in Beijing. In one of the first high-level Myanmar visits to China, Thein Sein met with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, ostensibly to discuss the principles of co-existence. Analysts speculate, however, that Thein Sein was sent to Beijing to advocate for the junta as Operation 1027 restarts.

Japhet Quitzon is a Research Associate for the Southeast Asia Program and the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.

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